Acid reflux occurs when the acid content of the stomach rises back up to the esophagus.
This happens when the lower esophageal sphincter (LES) has lower pressure.
Under these circumstances, the muscular tissue that prevents foods flowing back into the esophagus is weaker.
As a result, we have reflux. We say “acid reflux” just because the stomach content that goes back is acidic.
The most common symptom of this condition is heartburn.
It involves the chest and throat. This is an important symptom, because able to determine serious consequences if not treated in the proper way.
That’s why we have to deepen more about acid reflux in throat.
More precisely, we have to shed light on some little-known features related to this fact.
Not all people experience the same symptoms and not even of the same importance.
This is what makes things difficult to diagnose and to treat as well.
However, there are some common signs and referred sensations the help to recognize this symptom.
The personal experience and the continued practice of listening to your organism still are essential to protect your health.
Throat effects of reflux are not an exception.
Acid Reflux In Throat: A Common Symptom
According to some evidence, there are about 60 million Americans who experience symptoms on a daily basis.
Sore throat is the most common effect of acid reflux.
This doesn’t happen always, because of the need for a specific precondition.
In fact, in order for your reflux to cause sore throat, the refluxate (acidic content coming from the stomach) has to reach the throat.
This is quite easy, especially is the body is lying down (even more if on the wrong – which is the right – side), or bending over.
The sensation sounds like irritation, with the possible feeling that something is stuck in the throat.
In addition, you can also experience a choking sensation with tightness.
There are some other symptoms to consider, such as a sense of “mucus” in the throat (or post-nasal drip), as well as a red and irritated voice box.
Moreover, we can also report the quite typical constant throat clearing and a hoarse voice is also often present.
Finally, even though it’s not precisely a throat-related symptom, we can include the halitosis (bad breath).
Relationships with the respiratory system
To be more complete, we can add that there are some significant relationships between acid reflux and the respiratory system.
Even if we consider this aspect in another occasion, it’s quite interesting to report a table on that.
Studies showed that there are some specific respiratory disorders that relate to acid reflux.
You can find the table below.
As you can see, among the most relevant symptoms involving the throat we have throat irritation, postnasal drip, and hoarseness, as well as recurrent cough, chest congestion and lung inflammation leading to asthma and/or bronchitis/pneumonia.
If acid reflux is able to involve the pulmonary system it means that the acidic content of the stomach has to come in contact with the throat, along its way.
That’s why the throat is heavily involved in this process and why throat-related symptoms are even more important to consider than it may seem.
Burning Sensation In Throat
The burning sensation doesn’t only concern the throat.
As a direct consequence of the contact between acid content and the upper digestive tract, a burning sensation in the mouth comes next.
Along with it, the so-called “water brash” is also possible. It’s no more than a sour taste due to the mixing of saliva with the acid content. Pretty typical symptom, which can help in case of doubt.
However, being a symptom, we can’t consider it with certainty when it comes to making a diagnosis.
By the way, it’s quite typical and the people who listen to their body won’t fail in recognizing it.
This case is interesting because can make things very serious and complicated.
When the acid content of the stomach backs up into the esophagus, it creates inflammation.
This is possible because the acid refluxate brings aggression on the mucous membrane of the esophagus.
The result may vary from case to case, also in the relationship with the acidity of the stomach content, as well as the use of remedies or dietary habits.
Anyway, it’s possible that this situation evolves towards real esophagitis.
Find in the image below the connection between acid reflux and esophagitis, as well as many other possibly related conditions (from World Journal of Gastroenterology)
This condition deserves the greatest attention because, if left untreated, it can lead to complications.
Burning sensation in chest and throat: learning the causes
These are common symptoms in the case of GERD.
However, there might be several other conditions able to mimic it. It’s very important to know what they are, in order to avoid mistakes and, above all else, avoid harmful delays of a proper diagnosis.
One of the most common conditions able to mimic that burning sensation in the chest is the burning esophagus we considered in the previous section.
The acidic aggression of stomach content when it comes in direct contact with the mucous membrane of the esophagus determines the typical symptom.
Throat often is involved in a very similar way.
It’s very important to make clear what are the causes of throat involvement because if left untreated a more complicated scenario can occur.
Among other conditions able to mimic the sensation of a sore throat there are the following.
#1) Streptococcal Pharyngitis: it happens when a bacterium (Group A Streptococcus) determines an infection of the back of the throat including the tonsils. Pain is common, however, in this case, nothing to do with acid reflux. This condition affects more children than adults. Find below some criteria for the correct diagnosis, as suggested by the American Family Physicians Association.
#2) Mononucleosis: the infection by Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) causes the disease. It’s also called the “disease of the kiss”, because of its peculiar ways of transmission. Similarly to the streptococcal pharyngitis, children are generally more affected than adult people.
#3) Burning Mouth Syndrome: this is a chronic or recurrent burning sensation in the mouth that doesn’t have any identified cause. This condition may affect the tongue, gums, lips, inside of cheeks, the roof of the mouth (palate) or widespread areas of the whole mouth. If you want to learn more about this specific syndrome, please check the very well-done section about it on SheCares.
The above listed are the most common conditions able to mimic the throat burning and pain described by people with acid reflux.
Other possible conditions for a similar throat pain are tonsillitis and cold/flu (we must be sure to exclude them before to think about a reflux-related throat symptomatology).
They are not related to the reflux disease, nor with the heartburn, and that’s extremely important to avoid mistakes during the diagnosis phase.
Throat damages due to the acid reflux are not a “one-off” thing.
If left untreated, or underestimated or, even worse, if treated in the wrong way, they can progress and determine serious complications.
We’ve already considered the likely most common, esophagitis.
But there are at least two additional complications to consider because of their seriousness.
The first one is a continuous cough.
A dry cough is one of the most relevant symptoms in case of acid reflux and heartburn but in this case, the cough has some peculiar features.
In particular, some people with the disease are feeling the need to continuously clear their throat.
As a result, this habit determines hoarseness and also soreness.
The other, much worse complication, is the so-called Barrett’s esophagus.
This complication deserves the utmost attention because it’s a premalignant condition.
To be a bit more specific, it happens when the esophageal epithelium is replaced by the intestinal epithelium.
This condition doesn’t present symptoms on its own, that’s why it’s so important to treat the acid reflux that may lead to Barrett’s esophagus.
In the short video below (3’50”) you can find good additional information on this serious complication to avoid.
Acid Reflux With Throat Pain
As we’ve seen above, there some cases with more effects and symptoms than others.
One of them deserves our greatest attention, even though we’ll not dive deep into it in this case.
But it’s worth knowing.
This case occurs when the acid content of the stomach backs up into a very specific part of the throat.
This part is the pharynx, and this also involves the larynx (voice box).
In many cases (not always, though), the acid content of the stomach reaches the back of nasal airways.
This is extremely important because the upper tract of the respiratory system doesn’t have defenses against acid aggressions of this kind.
The final result is severe pain due to the inflammation.
This is a specific condition, called “silent reflux”, or LPR (Laringo Pharyngeal Reflux).
Below, you find a summary of symptoms, as reported by the Parkside Hospital (UK).
This condition is particularly serious for children, and it presents different symptoms if compared with the more common GERD (acid reflux disease).
We’ve just considered a case of acid reflux that generates pain, but the opposite can also happen.
Chronic laryngitis and acid reflux
There’s another case to consider.
As we’ve considered above, it’s possible that the acid content of the stomach gets in contact with the larynx.
In many cases, especially when chronic heartburn is present, the resulting effect is chronic laryngitis with some typical symptoms.
However, it’s important to learn and better understand the difference between these two conditions.
Also and especially because, under some scenarios, the ORL complications of an acid reflux disease (GERD) may be frequent.
Additional oropharyngeal lesions
When the throat is affected, pharynx, and more, in general, the whole upper tract of respiratory/digestive systems can present various levels of damage.
A special mention deserves dental erosion and related consequences of the reflux.
It has been noted that (even though only on an experimental level), the presence of GERD can affect heavily the normal structure of throat and mouth.
The table below summarizes the most likely occurring effects.
For what concerns the mouth, we can find dental erosion and also periodontitis.
Talking about the throat, besides mucosal erosion lesions, we can also find glossitis.
To be more precise, studies have shown the presence of such lesions in the posterior part of the tongue.
The bottom line, any area of the respiratory and digestive systems that comes into contact with the acidic refluxate is at high danger of erosion.
When this happens, the inflammatory process causes pain and all other symptoms.
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Acid Reflux Without Heartburn
This is an interesting thing to investigate.
Studies have shown that 20 – 60% of people develop symptoms in the throat even without any heartburn.
This means that a person can have reflux, but no heartburn. and still, he/she presents sore throat or discomfort of any kind.
A situation like this makes things more difficult to investigate, and is one of those conditions that predispose to complications.
There’s a study that deserves our attention: when the stomach content is weakly acidic, heartburn may not be present, even if the reflux is demonstrated.
However, there’s a positive correlation between the lower pH value of the weakly acidic content of the stomach and heartburn episodes.
What matters most is that when it comes to reflux in the throat, the mean pH value of reflux events associated with heartburn is not always lower than that not associated.
However, in such cases, the acid content affects the throat. Which means that some complications may occur. That’s why is very important to detect it as soon as possible.
If you have some time to spend, you can watch this good presentation on reflux and sore throat symptoms without heartburn.
A special case: throat and Jackhammer Esophagus
Another thing to consider when it comes to throat and reflux is this rare condition, called the Jackhammer esophagus.
Not common, though interesting to better understand the often complex relationships between heartburn and throat.
In short, this condition is a motility disorder that affects the esophagus. More specifically, the Jackhammer esophagus is a disorder of the muscular action of the esophagus, which presents “spasms”, meaning some abnormal contractions of the esophageal muscle.
Such contractions are abnormal in power (much stronger than normal). Moreover, they are not coordinated, which makes the passage of food so hard to succeed.
The result is a series of symptoms that are very similar to those referred by reflux and heartburn sufferers.
Among them, there are difficult swallowing of foods and also liquids, as well as the sensation of food stuck in the throat. In addition, are also frequent chest pain, weight loss, and regurgitation.
Heartburn is possible in turn. However, it is not a typical symptom.
This means that this condition can mimic the reflux when it comes to symptoms.
However, it can also relate to it. Meaning that reflux and Jackhammer esophagus can be present together. And, surprisingly, when treated, symptoms of Jackhammer esophagus show good improvement, regardless of the presence (or not) of an acid reflux disease.
Acidity symptoms may vary a lot
This is the likely most important pillar to remember.
Despite what we can say about the involvement of throat in reflux and heartburn, each person is different and the symptoms reported are different as well. There is a common basis, but we must go deeper and discover lesser-known facts.
For instance, there are some people with a much higher perception of reflux when the acidic content reaches the throat and other people who are not so sensitive.
The explanation might relate to the specific sensitivity of the throat, as well as the mucosal integrity.
Below a draw, to illustrate the characteristics of esophageal mucosal tissue.
It has been noted something surprising: acid exposure in the proximal segment of the esophagus provokes symptoms earlier than acid exposure in the distal esophagus.
To complete things, it has also be found that mucosal integrity is impaired more in the distal esophagus.
To sum up, more symptoms when the throat is affected, although the mucosa in this tract presents a lower degree of damage.
With the concomitant presence of another disease, the subjectivity of some symptoms can vary.
This also applies to the throat, in people who suffer from diabetes and reflux together.
In most cases, along with regurgitation symptoms, a pharyngeal discomfort is felt much less, if compared to people who don’t have diabetes.
Remedy For Sore Throat From Acid Reflux
When it comes to remedies for sore throat in the case of heartburn and acid reflux, there is a rule to follow, without any exception.
In order for you to get rid of throat symptoms, you must treat the whole reflux disease.
In other words, throat is affected by the disease, then we must treat the condition as a whole and the throat will benefit as a direct consequence.
We can follow some general guidelines that are valid for all cases of acid reflux and heartburn.
First of all, eating good foods, just like the list we considered in a dedicated occasion.
Always about eating, besides the quality of foods, you must take care of the quantity. This means that eating small, frequent meals is much better than heavy meals.
Another important suggestion to follow is not to eat for a period of time of at least 2 hours before bedtime.
Stress is another condition that predisposes to acid reflux and other habits, like tobacco smoking or wearing tight clothes do the same thing.
How to select the best treatment
However, if you want to go for the best options, we suggest reading the paragraph “What To Do Next”, because you can find the most updated information on that.
The concept is: avoid drugs, if possible, and try to get rid of your heartburn naturally, with home-made but effective solutions.
Prior to that, you can read this good article on Medical News Today, which presents some of the most effective “home-made” remedies for sore throat in general.
Above all, we suggest dedicating special attention to ginger.
It’s one of the likely best natural solutions available in all cases of reflux, and you definitely must learn more about it as soon as you can.
Lemon for sore throat
The first suggestion is using a lemon (in hot water).
The question to answer is if they are really good to soothe a burning throat.
The taste of lemon could also help in the case of another very common and annoying symptom of reflux.
According to some findings, we can read that Vitamin C often considered as a total solution for sore throat might not work so well, actually.
However, there are some groups of people who, on the contrary, experience several benefits by taking Vitamin C in the case of sore throat.
That’s why, once again, it’s extremely important to listen to your body, then act accordingly.
Honey for sore throat
The other suggested remedy is honey.
It has an antimicrobial effect and there are some types (like the Manuka honey) that are able to almost stop the reproduction of viruses (such as the influenza virus).
Honey has been proven effective in reducing the pain, and it also has a very good effect on cough.
This means that honey is suggested for two important symptoms of acid reflux, namely sore throat and cough (often present together).
Important note: please remember that not all the reported solutions are good for acid reflux!
This means that before to start using them, you must be sure to check if they can make your heartburn or reflux worse.
To do that, you have to check our What To Do Next paragraph before, because all the info in there is specifically targeted to people with heartburn and acid reflux. An example of something not to do is below.
Alcohol for sore throat
There is evidence that drinking alcoholic drinks may help to relieve a sore throat.
This is true, in general terms, because of the fact that alcohol can kill the viruses responsible for the common cold and flu. However, these results certain only for hand sanitizers.
Alcohol also has anesthetic effects, and this might help in the case of sore throat. However, this still is a controversial topic, and we can’t assume the scientifically valid evidence of this assumption.
Bottom line, don’t drink alcohol in case of reflux with the purpose of soothing your sore throat, because it’s not whort.
How to use drugs for a sore throat
Drugs and medications should be avoided.
This is valid for the treatment of a single symptom (like sore throat), as well as for treating the whole disease (acid reflux).
However, if you want for some reasons to try chemical drugs, you have to consider two main categories of products.
Each of them has a different target action, and you must know in advance both of them.
The first category is: over-the-counter and prescription medicines able to neutralize or reduce stomach acids.
By doing so, the reflux still is present but the content is less acidic, meaning that the aggressive action on the mucosal tissue of the esophagus is (expected to be) much lower.
As you can see, however, these drugs don’t act on the root cause of reflux, and an increase in the acidity of the content may occur at a later time.
The second category is drugs that work to strengthen the lower esophageal sphincter, in order to make it able to prevent the reflux.
These are better, in general terms, because they act on the starting point of reflux.
However, this is a partial action, because they do nothing on factors that continuously promote reflux, such as eating habits, lifestyle and other related things.
More than special attention is required when planning this kind of treatment for women who are pregnant.
In such cases, natural treatments are always best.
Now that you’ve read a long list of symptoms and effects of acid reflux in throat, let’s make a recap.
There are some things to focus the attention on, without distractions.
The main goal is to avoid complications and get rid of this burning sensation because often it impairs the quality of life.
Below you can find the conclusions about what we’ve considered.
What To Do Next
And now it’s time to take the next step.
Sore throat is a symptom, one of the most common, of the disease.
However, this doesn’t mean that you have to target it and forget the whole condition.
It’s always best to treat the acid reflux as a whole, to get rid of heartburn in the first place.
And, as a direct consequence, of all other symptoms.
That’s why we strongly suggest checking the resources below.
You can find the exact steps to take in order for you to solve heartburn and acid reflux.
On a daily basis, with constant improvement, for a literally new life.
Thank you for your attention and take action!
The Proven Holistic 5-Step System
One of the best strategies. Its strength point is the holistic approach, which means that you're going to care about all aspects that may affect your organism, in 5 steps. Also known as "Heartburn No More".
The Three Everyday Ingredients
This strategy works on underestimated aspects, such as food combinations that are much more important than avoiding certain types of foods. Also known as "The Acid Reflux Strategy".
The Double Protocol For Reflux
It targets two conditions at the same time: acid reflux and infection by H. pylori. Quick warning: this book is not suitable for all reflux sufferers. Also known as "Rapid Reflux Relief".
The Reflux Remedy Kit
This is a book + kit that presents some little known and creative natural remedies for heartburn and acid reflux. A good integration. Also known as "Heartburn & Acid Reflux Remedy Report".